The Department for Transport (DfT) has asked local transport authorities (LTAs) in England what potential funding they may need beyond the three-year horizon of National Bus Strategy (NBS) money in order for them to deliver on its policy objectives, hinting that politicians could be considering longer-term support for those aims.
There is no concrete indication that DfT will continue to fund NBS work beyond the 2024/25 financial year. However, guidance published on 11 October that describes how LTAs should outline their funding requirements alongside Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) says that projected needs for the each of the financial years between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2025 should be submitted alongside long-term amounts beyond that “where possible.”
“BSIPs will enable the government to understand the appetite for transformational investments to support the bus sector in the funding period and beyond 2025,” the document states.
In accepting the “limited amount” of National Bus Strategy money available, the guidance advises LTAs to prioritise specific schemes, routes and requirements where possible. They should “take into account constraints on available funding” when doing so.
LTAs are also asked to detail money available from other sources in their submission, including from themselves and operators. In-depth costings are not required, although “existing bus funding sources and schemes with transport elements” are expected to be considered in how BSIPs are supported and delivered. “The BSIP is not purely a bid for funding from the £3bn [NBS money],” the document adds.
Potential for further government money post-2024/25 towards bus improvements in England will be welcome. An initial assessment by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) showed that in its area alone, the cost of implementing all NBS policies would be around £1bn. Using that as a baseline, TfWM estimated that £10bn would be required to deliver the same across England outside London.
It remains the case that BSIPs must be published and sent to DfT by the end of October.